Monday, 31 October 2016

The Dressing Up Box

Attic Treasures by John O'Brien
I usually do a more serious post for All Hallows Eve, or throw a lavish ball. But this year we are nursing our old Maine Coon Munchkin LeStrange and as he is poorly our cottage is a little quieter than usual at this time of the season. Celebrations are kept at minimum so he can sleep.

Our ghostly mantle overlooked by a Victorian champion amongst racehorses,  Stockwell.

We have a lot of candles lit, we are stocked up on chocolate to drink and to give out to the small Trick or Treat ones who call upon us.

Our cottage door and walk are hung with Halloween decorations, as each year, to make the children welcome and Mrs Black is watching for them. I hope they knock soon!

Dog Ghosts!
While Munchkin has been resting I have been putting the time to good use on the never ending task of a dealer in antiquities ~ sorting. Munchkin seems to be comforted by me and the various boxes of items spread about and he slumbers in his basket at the centre of it all.

The real life home of collector Vervia Todd
This reminded me of my youth and the 'Dressing Up Boxes' which children of yesteryear would have had at their disposal. I can remember the delight with which I first delved into such a box in the attic of the Grandmother of a friend of mine. It was a cedar chest and in it was a satin and tulle ball gown, beaded flapper dresses, a velvet opera cape, long lace gloves and hats with feathers and jewels. It had little compartments on top which lifted out. In these were long lace gloves, paste brooches and headbands which looked like crowns to me. On the very bottom of the box were silk slippers from the 20s. They were tiny and encrusted with beads. This was as close as I ever got to being Cinderella.

It's easy to make a Dressing Up Box for your children, or yourself!
My own life was nowhere near as grand as this though we too played dressing up, from a cardboard box of discarded items. Once in awhile we visited thrift shops and I was allowed to gather old velvet dresses or capes to play in.

Such stuff as dreams.
Fit for any Princess to play act in.
A velvet dressing gown from Toast.
Like many portals which have the power to transport us to somewhere else, to turn us into someone else, (or our real selves,) Dressing Up Boxes never lose their appeal. They may not be as dramatic as the wardrobe in C.S Lewis's wonderful tale, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but the magic is there.

The Wardrobe
I know that we are encouraged to 'grow up', set aside our Fairy Tales and childish costumes and live in the real world. I believe this is a mistake. The real world is full of beauty and dread, good and evil. Fairy Tales help prepare us for this, and a little escapism does us some good from time to time.

Helena Bonham Carter in Twelfth Night
Read more From Here:
 Halloween, and any dress up which children play, teaches them to use their imagination. Wanting to dress up and act out characters is not new, the Victorians loved doing this, and the kings and queens of old always held masquerades and kept a jester. Shakespeare certainly knew this!

Today, more than ever, those who inherit this Earth will need to be able to use their wits to find their way. And to believe.

I'm sharing some of my favourite Halloween moments from my internet travels.

Proud 30s/40s children playing dress up at school

vintage Halloween costumes

Photo by Johanna Parker Design on Flickr

This child Porcupine is brilliant!

Bring your horse too!

Alas! Sad Squid.
Oldies but goodies, always well dressed
The Stones
I'd also like to say that dressing up is not just for Halloween. It's easy this time of year to wrap up warm and forget the joy a little ornamentation brings to us, and to those who look at us. Couture has known this forever, and although few of us could afford to buy the creations they bring each season, it is simple to do small things to enhance our Autumn and Winter outfits. Or you might even get lucky and find a real vintage designer item at a charity shop for a song. Take some inspiration from films, paintings and celebrities. And vintage copies of Vogue.

"You don't have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive"
Diana Vreeland, Vogue

Use of a dramatic colour brightens your look
La Sargantaine, Ramón Casas i Carbó, 1907
You can never go wrong with Audrey. Or Chanel. Just add pearls.

Audrey Hepburn
Eternally classic.
Breakfast At Tiffany's

Diane Keaton in her own clothes

Details of Florence Welch's Gucci gown, and her rings.
Television shows based upon Victorian/Edwardian and 20s/30s/40s characters offer many ideas for outfits.  Not just for ladies either, that coat Sherlock wears is such a classic. The scarf is great too. The costumes in Peaky Blinders and Penny Dreadful are fantastic and would be fairly easy to borrow bits from.

One for him, the Sherlock Holmes coat and scarf.
Peaky Blinders, the 'ladies'
Peaky Blinders, Thomas Shelby played by Cillian Murphy
 smouldering in his wardrobe

Equally stylish
Vanessa Ives and gunslinger Ethan Chandler
Penny Dreadful

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful
Wearing a wonderful velvet and braid over collar on her long coat
Don't forget the looks from the 50s/60s. Think beautiful wool in shocking colours, tactile tweed and coats in fabulous shapes. Add a vintage handbag and remember to wear a brooch. For a more updated look wear a few brooches at the same time!

1958 coats by Cardin and Jacques Griffe

I'd not wear real fur, but this girl has a great look!
She really knows how to wear brooches! And the black trousersuit.
From her own blog, Here:

Add jewels or a feather to your hat (wear a hat!) throw a shawl over your shoulder and clasp it with a glittery brooch.

Wear all those bracelets or beads you've been keeping, all at once. Wear velvet in the day. Go on, you know you want to!

Green velvet silk dressing gown, from Toast

Take inspiration from Beatrix Ost,
street style post from the blog Advanced Style
 written by Ari Seth Cohen

Wear black if it suits you, and gloves
A true inspiration. Model, actress, and owner of over 100 hats
Marion Rogers "Mimi' Weddell (February 15, 1915 – September 24, 2009)
Read more about her, Here:
And on her Wiki page, Here:

Make like 30s film stars and wear pajamas to a party.
Monsoon collection 2016
And don't forget if you have children or Grandchildren to help them find their own Dressing Up Box.

I am very grateful that someone still reads my ramblings, and to all of you who do I wish you a magical Autumn (or Fall as we say in my hometown) and I hope that the Winter will be kind to you and that you and yours stay warm and safe, And a little decorated!

Further reading:

A couple of my previous Halloween posts, so sorry if you missed attending the Witch's Ball! I might have another next year.

Two Doors Down From The Witch, Here:

The Witch's Ball, Here:

Artist of Attic Treasures which I opened this post with, Here:

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Number 4 Privet Drive

The first page of the first book.
Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone

And so it began. I've said before that words can hold hidden power to touch us in so many ways. Often it happens suddenly but sometimes the magic is so strong that the spell continues to work forever and we may only realise just how spellbound that we are until later,much later. A seemingly very ordinary person or place can become etched upon our minds and hearts because of a wonderfully written book or a film.

J.K. Rowling signed, 'the book that changed my life.'
Many could have signed underneath, 'Me Too!'

In the case of Harry Potter our lives have been graced by both.

Rubeus Hagrid delivers baby Harry to 4 Privet Drive
Right from the beginning when Rubeus Hagrid dropped off the baby Harry at the suburban address of number 4 Privet Drive this address had entered a special place from which, no matter how it tried, it could never be ordinary again. It would take on a life and meaning much bigger than the house itself could ever be in real life.

The current owners have put the house on the market. Though this little house was not the favourite abode of choice of Harry who much preferred Hogwarts, you can imagine the excitement of the children who knew that Harry had been there.

The real perfectly ordinary house in a perfectly ordinary road.
The film set created at Warners Bros Studio, Leavesden
for the subsequent films
The house in the book and film is at Number 4 Privet Drive, in Little Whingeing, Surrey. This was a clever touch from J.K. Rowling as 'privet' has a wholesome image due to the many lovely English country cottages tucked behind privet hedges, and the quiet well behaved suburban streets, such as those written about by John Betjeman, where the neighbourhoods are kept tidy by well tended privet hedges. And Little Whingeing? Well, you know how snooty folk can be keeping up with the neighbourhood.  

A vintage poster extolling the virtue of suburbia.
The real house, which is actually at 12 Picket Post Close, near Bracknell, Berkshire, is not far from us here in our little village and I was tempted to go and take a peak at it. Growing up I despaired that it seemed all the fair maidens, knights, ghosts and fairies always lived in grand houses in obviously magical places.

Professor Minerva McGonagall as a cat in Privet Drive
Not often did the hero or heroine arrive from an ordinary place. Later I came to appreciate hugely any that did and the writers who gave a magic life to plain things.

The quiet cul-de-sac where 4 Privet Drive resided

The sitting/Dining Room, Kitchen & small garden
The estate agent's brochure does not have any photographs of an under stair cupboard, which the owner admits was not used for the films but instead houses a non-magical ironing board and the toys of her children. 

The main bedroom and the two single bedrooms
There is nothing magical about the house itself, as you can clearly see in these photos. But somehow you do keep expecting Harry to appear. The main bedroom does have a touch of purple about it, but only a tasteful amount. And is that a Gruffalo in one of the children's rooms there?

The Dursley's  purple chintz bedroom in the films
Harry in his under the stairs bedroom, from Vanity Fair 2001
The idea that J.K. Rowling chose to hide the young vulnerable Harry in such a suburban street, in plain sight, so to speak, thrilled me. And I thanked her for that, knowing how it would give hope to so many ordinary children that their own lives could be touched by the magic that many literary sources deny to them.

Homes and Property in their article, say this about the house: full article here:

"The property in Picket Post Close near Reading, known as 4 Privet Drive in the film, was selected out of hundreds of houses around the UK to become the home of Harry's Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley Dursley.

The three-bedroom house in Martins Heron, Bracknell, was cast as the "perfectly ordinary house on a perfectly ordinary street" for the 2001 film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The property’s then owner Sandra Smith was approached by filmmakers who spotted the house and thought it closely resembled the Thirties home in Little Whinging, Surrey described by JK Rowling. Filming took place at the location over two weeks as the property was transformed into the home of the Dursley family.

The Boy Who Lived famously did so in the cupboard-under-the-stairs - during his early years, at least.

Harry's aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon reserved two of four bedrooms in Privet Drive for their odious son Dudley, one for themselves and another for guests. While Harry kept the spiders and the vacuum cleaner company in the cupboard at night. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the orphan wizard is quickly moved into “Dudley’s second bedroom” by his rattled relatives after he starts receiving letters addressed to “Harry Potter, The Cupboard Under the Stairs.”

Harry's mail

Harry's mail takes over the sitting room
The current owner has lived there since May 2010 when the house was purchased for £290,000.   Seven years earlier, it was put up for auction with a much higher guide price than its market value thanks to its connection to Harry Potter, but the home failed to sell when the £250,000 reserve price wasn't met - despite receiving a bid of £249,000. "

You can read an interview with the current owner Claire Powder who is blissfully unaware of the owner of Potter having never read the books or seen any but the first film which included their home.  Here:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There has been a lot of interest in the house. I had to smile when I read the usual warning that, "viewings are strictly by appointment only".  Better to be safe than sorry, Dementors might turn up uninvited like they have before.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is a perfect excuse to remember some of the moments of 4 Privet Drive, from the first film when the real house was used, and later after the stage set had been built for the films that followed.

The owls are not what they seem ....

Proud and snobby Dursleys at home

Harry and his Uncle

Harry's under stairs cupboard bedroom
The Order of the Phoenix

Dobby visits Harry in his bedroom at Privet Drive

The Dursleys leaving 4 Privet Drive
Harry says goodbye to Hedwig

The Deathly Hallows, The final battle nears,
friends meet at 4 Privet Drive
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry is 16 years old, still underage for a Wizard and unable to use his powers to the full without attracting unwanted attention.  Members of the Order of the Phoenix come to 4 Privet Drive to escort Harry to the Burrow. The rationale behind this was that they couldn't use the Floo Network, they couldn't Apparate, they couldn't use a Portkey, and Harry still had the Trace on him. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Harry and Hagrid leave Privet Drive for the last time

further Reading:

Well, the books, of course!

But you could start here for more information: Harry Potter Wiki for 4 Privet Drive

Or here, at Pottermore
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